Staniszewski not ‘gay’ about national publicity

March 7, 2013
Image description
Jimmy Kimmel delivers a punch line at Councilman Matt Staniszewski’s expense during “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night.
Image description
A screenshot from a "Jimmy Kimmel Live" skit based on Washington Councilman Matt Staniszewski's emergency alert test.

Washington Councilman Matt Staniszewski wasn’t very “gay” Thursday after being featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night for sending out a city transit rider test alert in which he called a friend gay, and then explaining at a council meeting that the term meant “happy.”

Kimmel said the excuse was perfectly acceptable “if you are in the fourth grade.”

Staniszewski had little to say about Kimmel’s skit or the international coverage that the incident has received, making headlines in the Drudge Report and Huffington Post.

“I recognize that a mistake was made,” said Staniszewski. “But human beings do make errors.”

Also not “gay” was Washington Mayor Brenda Davis, who said she, too, had received phone calls about Kimmel’s skit.

“This is absolutely embarrassing for the city of Washington,” said Davis. “I’m very disappointed with Councilman Staniszewski’s actions.”

She added, “There are a lot of good things happening in the city of Washington, and then there’s a lot of bad.”

Staniszewski’s error came to light Monday when Davis questioned his role in the company contracted to provide information technology services to the city’s transit authority.

While Staniszewski says he informed council and Davis personally that he was a member of the board of directors for nTouch Inc., Davis says he did not. She was unaware he had access to the website.

The test rider alert email that said, “Alert: This is a test. Bryan is gay” went out Feb. 25, and soon after, the city received an email from a Canonsburg man concerned because the alert was received on his work account.

Staniszewski said Tuesday he was assisting in testing the transit system’s new smartphone alert system when he sent out the email.

“I was not aware that the system was live. I thought it was still in a testing environment,” he said.

Staniszewski blames Davis for misconstruing his use of the word “gay” and turning City Hall “into an episode of the ‘Jerry Springer Show.’”

The councilman said he did not see the Kimmel skit but learned about it after receiving several phone calls, text messages and emails from friends and family.

Staniszewski said he has received a few emails from other people who have “expressed their opinion.”

In the meantime, by noon Thursday, City Hall had received more than 20 phone calls.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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